Force of nature: tornados

Tornado Weather Storm Disaster Danger Clou


A Tornado is a violent, churning maelstrom of whirling winds sometimes filled with debris that destroys everything in its path. Every year hundreds of people are killed by tornadoes. They’re one of the most violent and unpredictable forces in nature that may often strike without warning taking innocent people by complete surprise.

Tornadoes do occur in many regions of the world but they are found most often in the spring and summer months over the Central Plains of the USA. In a normal year eight hundred tornadoes are reported here leading to eighty deaths and nearly fifteen hundred injuries.

These super cell thunder storms are triggered by a unique combination of cold air from the north, warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico in the south and dry air from the desert south-west. Sustained by strong winds these ingredients can form super cell thunderstorms that can produce tornadoes.

The Fujita Scale for tornadoes was devised in 1971. It’s a scale for rating tornado intensity based on the harm they inflict on plant and structures.

F0 Light
F1 Moderate
F2 Substantial
F3 Severe
F4 Devastating
F5 Annihilating

Some of the most recent recordings of tornadoes include:

May 3, 1999 ‘The Moore Oklahoma City F5’. This tornado grew to be a mile wide spinning at 300 mph traveling a distance of over 35 miles for 40 minutes. This tornado caused more than one billion dollars damage. Thirty six people lost their lives and five hundred and eighty three people were injured.

July 24, 2003 ‘The Manchester Wedge’. It was on the ground for 20 minutes and ravaged the town of Manchester, South Dakota. A wedge tornado is the point where the distance across the tornado is larger than the distance to the cloud base from the ground. They may touch down as the slim funneled tornado and sustained by storms usually of 200 mph stir up dirt and dust expanding the base width.

May 12 2004 ‘Attica Tornado’. This tornado was 200 yards wide and travelled 2 miles. It was the worst of a number of tornadoes to strike Kansas was that season.

November 12, 2005 ‘The Woodward Tornado’. It caused considerable damage to a number of communities.

Tornadoes follow along a path determined by the storms mobile itself. If it undergoes a change in direction you should have time to make adjustments accordingly. It is the unpredictability of tornadoes that make them such deadly forces of nature. If you must ask’how close is too close?’ then you probably are.

How does one survive a tornado? Experts concur that taking shelter under an overpass affords almost no security and it may be among the worst decisions you may make. The reason is that the higher you move up a tornado, the greater the wind speed. By ascending to the girders of the overpass there’s more risk here of a wind tunnel sucking or blowing you out of the overpass.

It is the debris in tornadoes such as wood metal and glass travelling at 200 mph which causes fatalities and shreds structures in their path. Seek shelter indoors at the bottom level preferably a basement. If outside however, take cover in a low area such as a ditch.

The threat of tornadoes will always be present and the only way to make ourselves less vulnerable to tornadoes is to build a storm shelter in our home. If you do nothing to enhance the construction of your home, you will have no security in any way.

The unpredictability of tornadoes can surprise even the most seasoned storm chasers and the most knowledgeable meteorologists. These specialists spend months trying to chase down these elusive twisters but all too frequently tornadoes touch down where people least expect them to strike. No amount of study will render tornadoes totally predictable. There are so many environmental variables that come into play. It is therefore extremely challenging to be able to alert the public to the threat of a tornado.

A tornado warning is an alert issued by climate services to notify areas that a tornado or funnel cloud has been spotted or their radar show signs of a possible tornado. Warnings are issued by TV, radio and sirens. It’s the hope of every weather forecaster that the public are taking heed of the information being supplied to them. You can look up a wikipedia reference for tornadoes and more information.

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